"Willpower is the key to success. Successful people strive no matter what they feel
by applying their will to overcome apathy, doubt or fear."
- Dan Millman
In 1970, Stanford professor and psychologist Walter Mischel conducted "the marshmallow experiment," where kids between the ages of four and six were offered the following choice: eat a marshmallow now, or wait 15 minutes and get two marshmallows as a reward. Each child was left alone with the single marshmallow for the 15 minutes. Two out of three kids succumbed and ate the marshmallow before time was up.
[The test has been recreated several times, and this recent video quite funnily captures the anguish it causes kids.]
Fast-forward from the Stanford marshmallow experiment nearly twenty years, when the original subjects were young adults. Follow-up research showed that the kids who did not cave and eat the marshmallow were more successful and competent students. They had lower body mass indexes and even scored an average of 210 points higher on their SATs than their caving counterparts. The kids who ate the marshmallow were more likely to have gotten bad grades and not gone to college.
Citing the marshmallow test in his TED talk, motivational speaker and author Joachim de Posada believes that it reveals the most important ingredient to success: self-control. In fact, self-control has been shown to be a better indicator of future success than IQ.
If this is true, then willpower is pretty important.
The pressure to exercise discipline might have you feeling a little stressed, perhaps even a tad guilty about how often you cave to temptation or take the easy way out. You might even try to use guilt to motivate more willpower. The irony is, stress and guilt are proven to wither your willpower. Pass the eggnog - what's the point?
In their 2011 book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, psychologists Roy Baumeister and John Tierney argued that willpower is a limited resource. The more you use it, the less you have. And stress puts downward pressure on willpower, causing it to get depleted even more quickly.
Psychologist Carol Dweck took issue with this notion that willpower is a fixed resource. She's devoted her long career to looking at intelligence and success. In her 2007 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck explains that people's perceptions of their own intelligence and, thus, their potential to succeed, are directly linked to their mindset about the origins of ability. Those who had a "fixed" mindset believe intelligence and capability are inherent; those with a "growth" mindset believe they can improve their intelligence and capability. Not surprisingly, the "growth mindsetters" had greater grit and potential.
Dweck was curious to apply the notion of mindset to willpower. Through a series of experiments, detailed here, participants were asked to partake in tasks of varying degrees of complexity. Those who believed willpower is limited performed poorly relative to those who believed it is improvable.
Another Stanford psychologist and professor, Kelly McGonigal, has devoted her work to studying the science of willpower. In one of her TED talks, she debunks more myths about willpower, as well as suggesting tactics to improve it. Perhaps one of her most interesting points is research that demonstrated how simple tricks about paying attention can improve our willpower and self-control.
Couples in romantic relationships were asked to spend two weeks using their non-dominant hand for simple tasks like opening doors. This small exercise, in which people necessarily focused on a goal and paid attention, made these people less likely to mistreat their partners. In other words, low-level exertions of self-control enabled higher-level exertions of self-control. Sounds kind of like a muscle, doesn't it?
The holidays tend to be a time of year where temptations at party after party challenge our willpower. And of course, this all precedes the New Year's resolutions season, which many of us think of as kind of a joke.
Unless, that is, you believe it isn't. If you believe willpower is a muscle, you can strengthen it. If you believe your have the willpower to pass on the second slice of pie, then you will. If you believe you have the control to realize your New Year's resolutions, then you will. And in the meantime, you might as well try using your non-dominant hand to unlock your door and brush your hair.
Read on in this month's special section about the science of willpower and ways you can fortify yours.
Just be sure to indulge now and then...Shame to see all those Christmas cookies go to waste.
The end of the year always presents an opportunity to look back as well as project forward. For us, 2013 turned out well. Business may not have been through the roof, but it was robust enough to put a smile on our face. We have to thank our lucky stars for being in Houston these days. Right place, right time worked its charm on pretty much all of us in the Lone Star state and other oil and gas geographies. But we all know right place, right time doesn't last forever. So, what might we see for 2014?
From our perspective, the upstream gold rush has peaked. We've passed the period of paying enormous amounts of money to lease land for oil & gas exploration. And we've passed the period where drilling just a handful of wells "proves up" our hot lease acreage position. Although recent upstream capital expenditure announcements suggest an increase for 2014, the easy money period in upstream seems behind us. We've shifted away from a gold-rush asset acquiring and flipping game to day-to-day blocking and tackling. In the energy world, discipline and execution will now rule the day.
Although easy money in upstream may be in the rear view, it appears we have years, if not decades, to take advantage of our newfound natural resource bonanza. Our expanded supply of oil and gas has created another boom in the construction of midstream assets that takes resources from the ground to where our economy needs them. Adding even more to our private sector economic stimulus is the construction of downstream and petrochemical assets that will turn growing oil and gas production into even more economic value.
Many years of positive economic activity seem to be in our future, but yet we remain highly dependent on enormous fiscal and monetary stimulus from governments around the world. We seem to have reached a point where the business cycle is no longer defined by the balance between production capacity and demand. Instead the new business cycles seem to be influenced by either expanding or contracting government stimulus.
All economy begins with natural resources - always has and always will. But economies that are now entirely dependent on government stimulus suggest that there's a severe imbalance out there. So no matter how well any specific geography may be performing, we won't be able rest easy in a world still under a great deal of infrastructure fragility.
Hiring in our world continues to be pretty solid. With global governments working hard to stimulate economy with monetary and fiscal policies, our primary market - folks who deal with capital - remains steady as we go. Yet with an economy highly dependent on government stimulus, the hiring world of finance will likely follow expansions and contractions in stimulus. If Europe's economic situation can't hold steady, then odds seem good that another banking crisis of some measure could originate in the EU. Today's highly interconnected economy makes us all highly interdependent; a sneeze in another part of the world could create an economic cold in ours.
We recently experienced rapid job growth in upstream and oilfield services, but this rising tide may have plateaued. Now there seems a growing need for CEOs and COOs who can come to the rescue of flattening revenue markets as the gold rush matures. The challenge is people, something everyone in the industry talks about. But the real challenge is finding people who can act as productive entrepreneurs. The gold rush turned numerous tiny companies into medium sized companies, which must now adapt since the rising tide may have flattened out.
Midstream companies are growing employment as they naturally grow their development and asset management activity. Building pipelines, storage facilities, rail networks, intermediate processing assets, trucking terminals and all the gear that goes into the midstream world is today's high-demand market. This sector is currently employing an enormous amount of engineering and construction labor. "Where will we get all these welders and pipe fitters?" is a common question of construction managers. Of course this isn't our market, but it's a good sign that general employment in the energy geographies is solid.
Following the natural economic waterfall is growing demand for engineering and construction labor in the downstream and petrochemical market. Another market we don't serve, but the overall growth in demand for highly skilled engineers, plus the need for enormous numbers of construction workers provides economic value to all those industry-centric geographic markets.
Building out our midstream, downstream and petrochemical infrastructure will keep lots of small engineering, construction, industrial supply and maintenance companies in the chips for some time. We will benefit by helping capital providers evaluate, finance, acquire and manage some of these assets. And already we're seeing demand from private owners in need to increase their C-level talent, as companies serving midstream, downstream and petrochemical experience the next rising-tide-lifts-all-ships market.
This is the time of year when we naturally reflect back on our performance. How did we stack up to our peers and competitors? Did we work hard enough? Did we work smart enough? Did we contribute value that turned into greater responsibilities and compensation? What can we do to get ahead even more?
Every job and every career path has unique technical requirements, but there is one thing every job and every career path can benefit from, and that's our relationship building and management skills. Book upon book has been written about how to be successful at work, but it really doesn't take a great deal of research, analysis and pontification to uncover the emotional intelligence secrets to getting ahead.
The more goodwill you earn, the more good will be returned to you.
Achieving success is mostly about sticking to one work plan...
Occupations and industries related to healthcare are projected to add the most new jobs between 2012 and 2022.
Total employment is projected to increase 10.8%, or 15.6 million, during the decade.
The labor force is projected to grow 0.5% per year from 2012 to 2022, compared with an annual growth rate of 0.7% during the 2002-12 decade. Due to the aging baby-boom generation, workers ages 55 and older are expected to make up over one-quarter of the labor force in 2022.
Projected declines in the labor force participation rates for both men and women are expected to slow labor force growth. The overall labor force participation rate is projected to decline from 63.7% in 2012 to 61.6% in 2022, continuing the trend from the past decade.
Slower labor force growth is expected to limit potential economic growth. GDP is projected to increase by 2.6% annually from 2012 to 2022, slower than the 3% or higher rate often posted from the mid-1990s through mid-2000s.
Chart of the Month: Average Annual Personal Savings Rate, 1970 - 2013
Given that we're discussing willpower, a look at our country's savings habits seems appropriate. Since the Bureau of Economic Analysis began tracking personal savings (which is taken as a percentage of personal disposable income) in 1959, the rate reached an all-time high in May of 1975 at 14.6%. It reached an all-time low in April of 2005, at a paltry 0.8%. An interesting consideration is just how many products - games, cars, electronics, technology, iDevices - we are constantly assaulted with relative to previous generations. Where is that line between needs and wants, and at what point should we show a little willpower and resist more consumption?
The study of willpower is a particularly interesting one, as many feel willpower is what makes us human, what sets us apart from every other animal. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal divides willpower into three parts:
1) "I won't" power - the ability to resist temptations
2) "I will" power - the ability to do what needs to be done
3) "I want" power - the awareness of one's long-term goals and desires
Research has shown that willpower is not a character trait, but very much a muscle anyone can train. Stress and overuse can atrophy it, or it can get stronger through practice and exercise of the part of the brain that manages willpower. Read on for a high level look at the science of willpower.
In this TED talk, McGonigal sets out to debunk five myths about willpower and how recognizing that willpower is intrinsic to our humanness can make us more compassionate, towards ourselves and others. The five myths of willpower are that:
1) We won't be happy until we get what we think we want
2) Willpower is a measure of our virtue
3) We can use guilt and shame as a motivator to exercise more willpower
4) We need to change something in us (e.g. a root cause to a behavior) to be able to find the willpower to overcome that behavior
5) We tend to think of willpower as something that underscores what's weak and deficient about us. (Interestingly, McGonigal feels that willpower, and our struggles with it, is what makes us human, and can thus be a catalyst to more compassion and patience with ourselves and others.)
Willpower is a function of our prefrontal cortex, which controls decision-making and behavior. To improve willpower, we need to nurture our prefrontal cortex. Six ways to do this are:
1) Manage stress more effectively. Stress assaults our willpower by using energy to make short-term decisions. Instead, take deep breaths when stress creeps up to prevent stress from undermining good decisions.
2) Use self-affirmation. Instead of "I can't do that thing anymore," try "I don't do that bad habit anymore."
3) Get more sleep. Sleep debt is particularly hard on the prefrontal cortex, which causes it to lose control over the areas of the brain that create cravings and manage stress responses.
4) Meditate. More on that in the next link.
5) Better exercise and nutrition. Seems like a cruel catch-22 that our failures of willpower often cause us to eat Doritos on the sofa. But healthy eating and exercise feed the prefrontal cortex and "train" the willpower muscle, creating a virtuous cycle of improved willpower.
6) Postpone temptations for later to focus on what's important now. Telling yourself you'll allow yourself to indulge in that chocolate cake later will make you less tormented by what you're trying to avoid.
Meditation is one of the most proven ways to create more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex. Practiced meditators can recover from stress more quickly, which in turn weakens stress' power to diminish willpower. Meditation also makes us more sensitive to our wants and what drives our behaviors, making us more aware of unconscious or automatic decisions and behaviors. From there, it's far easier to apply some willpower to improve behaviors or stay committed to a goal.
This link provides a few guided meditations and techniques for starters. After eight weeks, even just 10 minutes a day of sitting quietly has been shown to enable the myriad benefits of meditation.
As noted in the intro, people with a "growth mindset" are far more likely to demonstrate grit and willpower and find happiness and success. The following infographic shows how "growth-mindsetters" and "fixed-mindsetters" compare in their approaches and responses. The author of this concept, Carol Dweck, has found that a growth mindset can be learned. This article has tips for doing just that. Click here, or the image, for the full infographic.
"You are only as lazy or lacking in willpower as you think you are."
Median federal income tax burden across counties is $3,400. About 10% of counties have a tax burden less than $2,100, and about 10% have a burden of $6,700. The counties with the heaviest tax burden tend to be clustered around large cities, the California coast, southern Florida and the corridor between Washington DC and Boston. (Note: Data is from 2007.)
"Landing in Houston last month, I saw the future." So starts this article about America's fastest growing state, which has added 913,642 residents in the past three years. The author takes a macro economic view of how the booming Lone Star state is driving migration to it, and what it could mean politically, economically and demographically for the rest of the country in the coming years.
If you think about it, most of the leaders we admire hit us on an emotional level. Great leaders connect with people on a level beyond mere intellect. Follow the link for qualities and abilities of a great leader (inherent and learnable), including empathy, an insatiable curiosity, kindness and respectfulness, honesty, an ability to let go of control, a knack for contextualizing, earning buy-in from employees and treating everyone like a partner.
In a recent speech to Wharton students, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said, "...leadership is the ability to inspire others to achieve shared objectives. Managers tell people what to do. Leaders inspire them to it." His point is that leadership takes more care and energy than mangers, and newly anointed leaders must be aware of this as they transition. Leaders must also take time to empathize and understand where any employee is coming from, rather than projecting their own perspectives on them.
Former GE CEO Jack Welch says of his hiring strategy, "hiring isn't a black box of gut and luck." Rather, "it's a discipline that improves with time and practice." He uses the following paradigm when hiring:
Candidates must have a high IQ and integrity
From there, he assesses each candidate across "The Four E's and a P": Energy, Energize, Edge, Execution and Passion
Finally, he determines if the person has the "game-changer" quality - inherent generosity
Click here to read his hiring theory in full, in his own words.
Hiring has a 50% failure rate, and poor hires cost companies time and money. This article suggests ways to avoid five common hiring pitfalls. A stand out point is failing to do proper due diligence. Statistics like 70% of college students would lie to get that perfect job, and 46% of resumes include false information underscore its importance.
This fun infographic takes a look at key milestones and developments in how Americans have gotten their work done since 1832, when the telegraph was invented. In 1880, colleges taught office skills for the first time. In 1950, the concept of "office landscaping" was introduced, which was the movement to plan strategic office layouts. After several schools of thought there, today, nearly half of American workers telecommute. Click here, or the image, for the full infographic.
Minimum wage used to be sufficient to keep a single parent or a family of three out of poverty. Since the 1980s, minimum wage hasn't kept pace with inflation or the rise of the average worker's paycheck. The following chart shows, in today's dollars, how minimum wage relates to the poverty line. (The 2016 marker indicates a minimum wage of $10.10, the rate presently proposed in a bill brought by Ted Senator Harkin and Representative George Miller.)
Thanks for reading The Leyendecker View. We hope you find these perspectives unique, insightful and valuable.
We at Leyendecker & Associates are committed to the highest standards of value creation.